Kosovo: Ceku Gets Cold Shoulder in Moscow Over Independence.

Kosovo prime minister Agim Ceku got a cold shoulder from Russian leaders on Thursday in an effort to rig support for independence of the province which has been under United Nations control since 1999. Ceku's visit got a low profile treatment, aimed not to offend Belgrade, which opposes independence of the province in which ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs by 17 to one. He met with deputy foreign minister Vladimir Titov and president of the foreign policy committee of the Russian parliament, Konstantin Kosacov, but failed to get Moscow's commitment for independence.

Kosacov suggested that the dispute should be solved in direct negotiations with Belgrade and offered Moscow's support in "establishing direct dialogue". He said unilateral proclamation of independence, without Belgrade's consent, would be a "dangerous precedent, contrary to European standards established after the Second World War". Kosacov told journalists, after meeting with Ceku, that these standards don't allow the change of state borders without the consent of all involved.

He actually echoed Belgrade's stand that any change of borders, or unilateral recognition of Kosovo independence, would destabilize the entire region and violate the UN Charter. "Russia could help in establishing such a dialogue which would lead to a compromise that would satisfy the Serbian and the Kosovo side," he said.

Belgrade has no authority in Kosovo since its forces were pushed out of the province by NATO bombing in 1999 and is offering ethnic Albanians a large autonomy. But ethnic Albanian leaders have said they would settle for nothing short of independence, hinting they might even resort to violence to achieve that goal.

Kosacov said Ceku has repeatedly stated the interest "to maintain open and constructive relations with Serbia, but only as two sovereign states". Titov said the search for a compromise solution, based on the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 should remain the basis for solving the Kosovo dispute.

Resolution 1244, which put Kosovo under UN control with strong international civilian and military presence, states that Kosovo is officially a part of Serbia. But the international community has been gradually moving towards granting Kosovo independence and, after eight failed rounds of negotiations, it is expected to make a final status decision early next year.

Russia is the only member of a six-nation Contact Group for Kosovo that has openly opposed independence. Other members of the group, which should make a final status proposal, are the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany.

[Source: ADN Kronos International, Moscow, 30Nov06]

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